100 Hours Unplugged

4 min read

Here's the challenge: spend 100 Hours Unplugged. It's pretty simple stuff with the potential for pretty profound implications.

The average 7-18 year old spends 7.5 hours per day on screens and only 20 minutes playing outdoors. We adults also spend plenty of time on our screens too. Apparently the average American is on their phone approximately 4.7 hours a day (over 140 hours each month). I recently used an app to track my phone use and was SHOCKED to discover I spent 5.5 hours in one day on my phone. That is 5.5 hours I wasn’t playing with my kid, cooking a meal, riding my bike or doing any number of other things that I enjoy and value in my life.

We live in a world where we're often too busy to get outside, too busy to prioritize our health, too busy to spend time with the people we love, and more, yet we make time for screens. Social media, Netflix, email, web browsing, apps... the hours add up quicker than we even realize.

Before your mom-guilt kicks into overdrive, hear me out. We totally get it, technology and screens can be amazing tools. It’s not about judgment or telling other people what they or their kids should be doing with their time. If screen time is of value to you and your family I say rock on. And, as much as I fantasize about life with a flip phone, just try to pry my iPhone and Mac Air from my cold dead fingers. I get value from them. I use them to work remotely, write blogs, connect with friends, track my finances, and even learn other languages. These devices are AMAZING. But they can quickly take over if we are not careful. My goal is to maximize my joy, connection, and productivity while minimizing my stress and distraction level. For my son, I want him to have long afternoons spent playing in the dirt and exploring his world.

Rather than become screen-celibate altogether, the 100 Hours Unplugged Challenge by O.A.R.S Whitewater Rafting Adventures is inviting people to be more intentional with our time altogether.

Cari Morgan is the Communications Director for O.A.R.S and the Co-Founder of 100 Hours Unplugged. She attributes her love for the wilderness and outdoor adventure to uninterrupted time spent with a friend's family in the Northwoods of Wisconsin.

Our days were filled with hikes through the woods, swimming, canoe trips, and many hours outside just being kids. I never really thought of those days as adventurous, but [I realize now] they were. I still remember the day my friend and I decided to 'anchor' our canoe at a sandbar on the opposite side of the lake so we could get out and wade around the water. The next time we looked up, our canoe was bobbing away into the middle of the lake leaving us stranded. That was an adventurous day.

At 17, Cari itched to see the West and convinced her parents to let her and two girlfriends borrow the minivan for a cross country adventure. “Slightly unprepared for the big world, but ready for adventure, our smart and slightly clueless crew hit the road. We camped under the stars in the Badlands, woke up next to bison in Yellowstone (seriously, they were next to our tent), climbed through hoodoos in Bryce Canyon, and hiked upstream in Zion’s Virgin River. Somehow, with the exception of the car breaking down just hours from home, we made it back alive and unscathed. But my eyes were opened to what was out there and the West had stolen this Midwestern girl’s heart."

Most of us have a similar story: youthful hours of uninterrupted outdoor play, freedom to explore, and no technology getting in the way.

The idea for the challenge came about when Cari’s colleague Steve Markle, VP of Marketing for O.A.R.S., sat on a panel at the Family Travel Association Summit. The panel focused on the benefits of disconnected nature travel for kids, families and our planet. She said, “During the discussion, he talked about how introducing kids to the outdoors is not only essential for their physical and emotional health, it’s the best way—maybe the only way—to ensure the protection of our national parks and public lands for the enjoyment of future generations. The topic hit a nerve with the attendees, many of whom were moms like me—travel professionals, bloggers, social media influencers—who want to spend more time disconnected from our devices and outdoors with our families, but also know how quickly life can get in the way of our best intentions.”

Cari and Steve put their heads together to think of a way to encourage families to spend more time together outside and less time in front of screens. They wanted to invite families to shut down, recharge, reconnect, and remember what life is all about. The #100hoursunplugged challenge was born.

100 hours is roughly 4 days and conveniently, it's also the length of the standard O.A.R.S. river trip. But you certainly don’t have to go on a river trip to participate. In fact, the simplicity of this challenge is one of my favorite things about it. There is no mailing list to sign up for, no tracking app you need to install. Simply post to social media that your family is taking the challenge and use the hashtag #100HoursUnplugged. If you want, after you return from your adventures you can post photos of your time together with the same hashtag. That’s it.

Even if you are not able to go on a big adventure, you can turn off your devices and explore your hometown for four days. No expenses. No huge physical or logistical effort. Just stop the devices for 4 days and play outside. Boom. Don’t have 4 straight days? That’s ok. How about 1 day a week for 4 weeks? Or, 2 hours every evening for a couple of months. The hours can be sliced and diced however you like. Just turn off the television, put down the phone, and spend time doing what you love with the people that you love.

As for the O.A.R.S. company, they aren’t stopping with a hashtag. They have big social projects on the horizon. Cari shared, “2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act, so right now we’re working with American Rivers, NRS, and YETI to collect 5,000 personal stories from people across the country to show our elected officials why our rivers are worth saving. As part of the campaign, we’re also working to protect 5,000 new miles of river and get 500 under-served youth on river trips across the country by the end of 2018.”

That's freaking cool as hell and something that we can and should get on board with.

About: Become more intentional with screen time and commit to spending 100 hours disconnected from technology.
Who it's for: Applicable for all but specifically aimed at families.
Website: www.oars.com/100hrs/
Instagram: instagram.com/100HoursUnplugged or instagram.com/oars_rafting/
Founders: Cari Morgan and Steve Markle

About the Author

Sabrina Carlson

Sabrina Carlson is on the AMI Board of Directors and is also the Youth Outreach and Education Coordinator with the Seeds of Stewardship Program of the Arizona Trail Association. She is a mama, writer, adventurer, outdoor educator, PPD warrior, fiercely passionate friend, self-care advocate, and deep lover of chocolate and bacon (occasionally together).

Connect with Sabrina: IG @mamawildnfree or her blog mamawildandfree.com.

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